SEeveral seminars have been held of late on karo-kari. Participants have unanimously, and rightly, come to the conclusion that the government needs to urgently change the existing law to make honour killing a capital offence.
Recently the Sindh High Court was also approached by a citizen seeking judicial intervention in outlawing honour killing. In addition, the National and Sindh assemblies have seen the issue discussed, though not with any degree of keenness or vigour.
In fact, in the National Assembly, the issue was admitted for debate only after the member who wanted to speak on the subject threatened to walk out if disallowed. For its part, the Sindh legislature has formed a committee to formulate recommendations to the government to change the existing law so that anyone who kills in the name of his or his family’s honour is charged for premeditated murder.
Under the current law, a person who kills another person can get away with a light sentence if he can prove that he acted under “grave provocation”. It is this provision that allows most of those who commit acts of karo-kari to get away without being charged for murder.
Hopefully, the government will modify the existing law so that it makes no distinction between premeditated murder and the killing in protection of so-called family honour. Those who justify karo-kari, as a provincial minister in Sindh has done in a recent interview to an English-language magazine, by saying it is part of tribal custom, need to realize that tradition or not, killing is a horrendous crime and must be dealt with as such.
Those who say that centuries-old practices like karo-kari cannot be eliminated with simple legislation are also not entirely wrong but then the fight to outlaw such crimes will get a significant boost if the law at least is on one’s side. To save precious lives, the federal government must act sooner than later to amend the relevant law to make honour killing a capital offence.